Damage tolerance mechanisms, which allow the bypass of DNA lesions during replication, are controlled in eukaryotic cells by mono- and poly-ubiquitination of the DNA polymerase cofactor PCNA (proliferating-cell nuclear antigen). In the present review, I will summarize our current knowledge of the enzymatic machinery for ubiquitination of PCNA and the way in which the modifications affect PCNA function during replication and lesion bypass in different organisms. Using the budding yeast as a reference model, I will highlight some of the species-specific differences, but also point out the common principles that emerge from the genetic and biochemical studies of damage tolerance in a range of experimental systems.

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